Friday, December 13, 2013

ASPCA: It's okay to give pets as gifts. Really.

Via PR Newswire - The ASPCA has released findings from its latest research study, which busts a major myth about giving pets as gifts, potentially saving more homeless animals' lives in the process.

It has been a long-held belief by many in the animal world that shelters should not allow adoptions by those looking to give the pet as a gift during the holidays or otherwise. The overwhelming concern was that the pet would be at a higher risk of being returned to the shelter.

But in its latest research study, the ASPCA found that 96 percent of people who received pets as gifts thought it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet. Additionally, 86 percent of the pets referred to in the study are still in the home.

Furthermore, the survey revealed no difference in the recipient's attachment to that pet based on whether the gift was a surprise or known in advance. This new data adds to previous research studies conducted in the 1990s and 2000 (Patronek, 1996; Scarlett, 1999; New, 1999; New, 2000), which found that pets acquired as gifts are less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired by an individual adopter.

"This has been a very controversial topic for the public and the sheltering world alike, but we're hoping to put an end to this misconception before the holiday season," said Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President of Shelter Research & Development for the ASPCA.

"Keeping all their normal application protocols and processes in place, shelters should feel confident enough in the supporting data to give it a try in their facilities. These are exciting findings that can help open new adoption options for shelters, allowing more animals to be placed in loving homes."

Americans have a long tradition of giving pets – usually puppies or kittens – as gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, holidays or graduation, but debate over how this practice could impact the animal's welfare has drummed up considerable controversy.

While some shelters have been allowing the adoption of pets as gifts for years, the stigma remains in the public consciousness, driving some customers away from shelters and unfortunately toward inhumane sources including pet stores, online or backyard breeders.

If you're thinking about bringing a pet into a friend or loved one's home – or your own – this holiday season, please make pet adoption your first option. You can find adoptable pets in your area by visiting and searching for the shelter or rescue group nearest you.


  1. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for posting this. I sat on the board of the National Council for Pet Population Study and Policy back in the 1990s, when the other studies you reference were done. This time of year, I just CRINGE when I see post after post on social media about how bad it is to give pets as gifts.

  2. I'm really thankful to see research being done on this. Fabulous!

    Should spawn lots of interesting conversations, however. People have a hard time letting go of what they "know" is true despite research to the contrary.

  3. Very very interesting. I gave my mom a kitten as a Christmas gift 8 years ago and they're still together and happy. I agree that in SOME circumstances, it may be a bad time to add a pet to the family BUT in other circumstances it's a great time! AND if people want to give a loved one a pet as a gift and it helps the shelters get more adopted, it shouldn't be discouraged. Perhaps just a few more questions could be asked at holiday time about the gift recipient, where the pet will be living, the holiday circumstances (will there be a lot of extra company in and out, will young kids be overexcited, etc), and maybe even how the pet will be cared for until they reveal the secret.